In 2016 a research team from IT, in collaboration with the University of Coimbra and Microsoft, developed a technology capable of evaluating in real time the reading ability of elementary school students from the 1st grade. Now, teachers and educators can already access this teaching tool through the webpage “Toca-A-Ler” to evaluate their students' reading performance online (https://letsread.co.it.pt). “The Teacher can access his class's performance, allowing him to better manage the school year expectations, identify difficulties and correcting discrepancies between students”, says Fernando Perdigão, researcher of IT in Coimbra and the project coordinator.
This assisted learning technology is based on intelligent models of recognition and processing of children speech with neural networks. “It detects and quantifies the number of correct words, pronunciation, hesitations, speed reading, and other indicators, automatically calculating a global index of the student´s reading ability "explains Fernando Perdigão. The technology can also be used as a teaching tool or to detect problems such as dyslexia.
To develop this intelligent system, researchers recorded about 300 readings from children in elementary schools. The texts that were given to the students were composed of phrases and pseudowords - words that do not exist in the lexicon but are important to assess whether a student really knows how to apply the Alphabetical code rules when reading. In a second stage, in order to validate the system, more than 100 first grade teachers from all over the country were asked to evaluate the children´s performance.